From a technical standpoint, stringing together an impressive, cohesive multisyllabic rhyme scheme is the lyrical equivalent of a successful three-point play in a game of basketballâ€”it gets the job done and drives home an extra, much needed tally in the process. Enter Bender, a monstrous competitor and ex-champion of King of the Dot, Canada’s premier battle league. Here’s an excerpt of what he’s capable of in the ring:
I’m Noreaga crossed with Schwarzenegger
The orphan maker
Orchestrate your fate inside the torture chamber
A force of nature, firestormin’, warn the forest ranger
You’re a flamer
if we dropped you off at a gay bar
you’d probably catch a rape charge like Lawrence Taylor”
He’s used that same scheme in two other battles without having to re-use any of those end rhymes. It takes an immense amount of talent to write like that. But while those skills are impressive in the acapella battle format, do they translate well to recorded material?
Enter “Bad Information,” the new LP from Flight Distance, a group that consists of Bender, his partner-in-rhyme Patience, and DJ Calkutta. It’s got a grimy, pre-apocalyptic feel to itâ€”the main theme of the production (all of which are provided by Crakk Moses) is lo-fi basement-level boom-bap that make the whole album sound like the soundtrack to a kidnapping. The lyrical content is, at turns, political (“info-pop_outbreak” and “When the Satellites Fall”), introspective (“My Bloody Valentine” and “Full Circle”) and raucous (“Frank Stallone” and “Blanket Party”), and the duo works very well whether they’re spitting 16s or trading bars a la “Blanket Party,” one of the strongest cuts from the album.
However, the problem with this song (and a couple of other selections) is the mastering: whether or not the lo-fi sound is intentional, it occasionally allows for the production to overpower the vocals. The same could be said for “info-pop_outbreak” or “Can’t Sleep When I’m Sober,” and it becomes extremely frustrating when listening to two writers as dope as Patience and Bender, both of whom are some of the sharpest lyricists in Hip-Hop today. The latter hits the mark best on “Can’t Sleep When I’m Sober,” where he rips through an eerie instrumental; Patience hits peak form on this one.
They also bring in some equally capable guests, including Typical Cats’ Qwel, Brown Bag All-Star Soul Khan, and Escrol, who murders both of his co-starring slots on this album, including his showstopping verse on “Stephen Hawking.”
The album’s production is strong for most of the record: Crack Moses is more than capable at handling a full LP (an ability that seems even rarer in today’s ten-tracks-ten-producers world of Hip-Hop). He shines particularly on “Full Circle” and “When the Satellites Fall,” where he peppers a dusty drum loop with bluesy guitar licks. “Blanket Party” also carries a backdrop that sounds as grimy as a worm writhing through thick mud after a thunderstorm. However, it does fall flat in a couple of places: “My Bloody Valentine” rehashes the same Jackson 5 sample from Ghostface’s “The Hilton,” though not quite as effectively; and the drums on “No Sweet Tooth” are a bit grating.
Flight Distance’s “Bad Information” is certainly one of the best-written releases of 2011. Though the sounds that back it aren’t always top notch, Patience and Bender are extremely adept at holding their weight and impressing with their penmanship. It’s a throwback to when the focus was on making grimy boom-bap infused records, and though that aesthetic is at times the downfall of this album, it certainly makes for an interesting listen.